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Intentional Interim Minister Rev. Kyle Harris's Page

April 2024 Caller Article

A few weeks ago the Parlor Prayer Time conversation focused on reclaiming the vitality of Central Christian Church.  As a congregation that is older and has few active people under 60 years old, we talked about some of the things that used to happen with our young people.  We talked about past generations of ministry in the church and what that might look like today in our church.

I understand that to some, this conversation may seem depressing.  However, I think the tone of the conversation was hopeful.  We are alive and active at the corner of Maney and Main Street.  We have life and vitality in our congregation.  We are making a positive difference in our neighborhood and people know who we are.

As a way to reclaim a sense of that vitality we once had and bring it into our current situation, I will be preaching a series of sermons called “Resurrecting Faith.”  Using the early parts of the Book of Acts, this series will highlight some of the principles the Early Church used to exercise their faith and grow.  “Resurrecting Faith” aims to instill those same principles in our life today.

I could get myself in trouble here, but I’m going to say it anyway – the Church, from local congregations to denominations, to all of Christianity, has lost its core.  For whatever reason (and there are many), I believe the Church has become more interested in meddling in governmental politics and culture wars than being a movement following Jesus.  We, Christians (particularly in America), have become more interested in building a “Christian Nation” than we are cultivating followers of Jesus.  This is not a new thing.  This has been going on for generations.  I believe it has hit a critical tipping point.  Whether you believe that politics has co-opted the Church or the Church has co-opted politics, we are where we are.  I am confident that anything I do will not change the political culture in America.  However, I believe that the Church, when it becomes more interested in following Jesus, can change our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 


How we understand and live the Gospel impacts every aspect of our individual lives and our communal life.  Our faith helps us understand how to navigate difficult issues like mental health, immigration, conflicts, the economy, education, and nearly every other major topic in our world today.  We might not be able to change how others act, but we can change how we act.  We can’t control others’ attitudes and actions, but we can control ours.  We can bestdo that by understanding the Gospel and communicating it to others.  “Resurrecting Faith” will help give us the principles on which to build that understanding and practice.

“Resurrecting Faith” focuses on developing simple habits and perspectives that reflect a    mindset of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  As baptized Christians, ones who believe that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God, we need to be able to demonstrate how that belief makes a difference in our lives.  It’s more than showing kindness to our neighbor.  I believe it’s about having the core of who we are shine forth with a respect that is noticeable and a love for another that is palpable.  St. Francis of Asisi’s famous quote “preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words” reverberates here.  Our conduct, the aura of who we represent as followers of Jesus, ought to cause someone to ask us about why we seem different from others.  To which we might be able to respond: my faith in        Jesus.  Our words are important too.  Our words help us tell the story of Jesus.

Equipped with the Good News of Jesus Christ – the Gospel – “Resurrecting Faith” will blend the story of the Early Church with our lives in simple, profound ways that is sure to bring a new vitality to Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro.  I hope you will choose to join us every Sunday in the Season of Easter and bring a friend.

I’ll see you Sunday.


March 2024 Caller Article

Our Lenten theme this year is "Leaning In, Letting Go" based on Nicole Martin Massey's devotional many of us have been reading. While the copies we purchased have been picked up, let me know if you would like a copy of the devotional.  Our Lenten journey is a 40-day trek to the Cross of Good Friday and the Empty Tomb of Easter.

On the seventh day of creation, as we are told in Genesis 1, God rested.  The commandment for humans to rest on that day continues -- Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.”  Most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday by going to worship in the morning.  At the risk of being too broad and over generalizing, I believe Jewish folks tend to be way more faithful at observing Sabbath than Christians.  There is a better discipline in the Jewish faith that Sabbath clearly begins at sundown on Friday by gathering with family for a meal.  On Saturday, Sabbath is celebrated when they gather as a community in the temple or synagogue.  Christians, again, broadly speaking, have become more lax at gathering together on Sunday morning and family dinners after church.

Understandings of Sabbath have changed greatly as time and technology have evolved.  I’m pretty sure our idea of “Sabbath” today is nothing close to the original biblical intent.  I can confidently say that 4 years ago, as we sheltered in our homes, I came to affirm that:  1) We are not good at Sabbath  2) We need to practice Sabbath more often.  These are lessons I continue to learn today.

We are not good at Sabbath because our lives are driven by productivity.  If we are not being productive, we get an uneasy feeling in our bodies.  Our society tells us that our worth is in what we produce.  Sabbath tells us that we are more than our work or what we produce.  Sabbath tells us that we are whole and complete because we are beautiful creations of God.  We take Sabbath to remind us of that.


Four years ago, many people hit their limit of “sabbath.”  Being sheltered in our homes, for many of us, was a welcomed relief for a couple of weeks.  But, after the initial shock of what this might mean for us we became more unsettled with the idea of pausing our lives for a period of time.  Many folks, who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, were able to settle into a routine or work and productivity from home that allowed them to spend the commute time to be with family.  It took my house a few weeks to finally settle into a helpful rhythm of work/school and play.  It took work and intentionality.  It was not perfect.  There were many hiccups in the routine.

As we take our Lenten journey this year, I invite you to reflect on the need to practice Sabbath more often.  Rest remains unnatural to many of us.  Down time, sorting through the “stuff” on our calendars, and determining what is most important to us feels weird.  I think one of the positive things that came out of the pandemic was a re-prioritization of our lives, which is ongoing and continues to cause difficulty with long-standing expectations.

We need to practice Sabbath more often so that we become better at it.  We do not need Sabbath because we need rest from our work.  We need Sabbath to be reminded that we are more than our work and what we produce.  We need Sabbath so that we can focus on who we are and who’s we are.  May we take time this Lent to lean into Sabbath rest and healthy practices to embrace God’s presence to affirm life more often and let go of those practices and habits that take life from ourselves and each other.

I’ll see you Sunday.

February 2024 Caller Article

On Tuesdays and Thursdays in January (except for the week of Snowmageddon 2024) a group of 4-10 folks have been meeting for conversation and prayer at Noon in the Parlor.  The conversations have been far ranging – from lifting up specific individuals and/or situations that need prayer to wider societal concerns for today and the future.  I often spend a little time afterward reflecting on my notes and the overall conversation – because there is a lot of depth and meaning underneath these concerns.

The prayer time has been filled with the usual things most of us expect our church concerns to be -- shut-ins, health situations for members, family, and friends. We continue to lift up the individuals and families that are near to us. There are concerns for the congregation’s future and the Search Committee as they do their work.  During these cold months, we share concerns about those in our community who need shelter and safety.

Then, there are conversations that reflect deep concerns beyond what is immediate or on the surface of our life together.  There are deeper questions about what " Radical Hospitality" might look like for our congregation.  We ponder how balancing invitation and safety intersect in ways that help us to feel comfortable enough to risk being uncomfortable.  In an election year for our country, we share about how we understand differences with others -- our friends, families, co-workers, other church members, and complete strangers. We share concerns about how we navigate real conversation that is respectful and honest.  The political system in this country may be broken, but it does not mean we have to break one another.

These are just a few of the things that are on our hearts and minds as we come together in community for prayer. While there is a heavy-ness to the concerns, there is a hopeful tone for real possibility of making a difference. The sea is immense and our boat is small. But we are in it together to build one another for the work of ministry.


I recently came across a quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, renowned Jewish theologian and biblical scholar, from his 1955 book God in Search of Man.  Heschel writes:  “It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.”

Spending time in prayer to lift up the concerns of the moment gives us the space to articulate what else worries us.  Often, deeper considerations reveal to us why the immediate makes us anxious.  Prayer moves us to faith, to worship, to love.  Prayer calms our spirit in order to see things more clearly to live and act with compassion toward one another.  Our prayer is one of the essential things we need to do in order to keep Heschel’s concerns from being realized.  Prayer will bring new vigor and vitality to our congregation.

You are invited to join us in the Parlor each Tuesday and Thursday at Noon.  If you’re not able to be there in person, you may spend some time on your own to lift your prayer concerns to God and to take some time to explore deeper questions of life and faith. 

I’ll see you Sunday.

January 2024 Caller Article

As we embark on a new year, I want to tell you about some new things that are happening around Central Christian Church.  First, the Elders have reaffirmed their commitment to Acts 2:42 as guiding the congregation’s life.  Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”   This scripture guided our congregation and the Eldership in 2023 as we moved toward a “back to basics” of what Church is and how we organize ourselves as a community of faith.  You are encouraged to join the Elders in praying for the congregation everyday at 2:42 p.m.  (and a.m. if you’re awake).  

To participate:  set an alarm to remind yourself and join us with this prayer:  God, may Your life-changing grace and transforming power “Break-Through” at Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro. At the corner of Maney and Main St., inspire us to be a place where Christ and Community intersect.  May lives be changed, the church renewed, leaders empowered, and ALL sent to bring wholeness in a broken world.  Amen.  We will again have cards with this prayer to give out to carry with you.  Take several and give them to your friends and family to join us.

Speaking of friends and family, invite them to join us in prayer and invite them to worship on Sunday.  For years, if not decades, church folks have asked why people don’t come to church anymore.  I think the better practice is to share with others why you come to Central Christian and encourage others to find something meaningful in our congregation.  The pandemic has changed many ways to live, work,  play, and worship.  We are still sorting out what it means and how we can move forward in a healthy way.  One of the best ways to do that is to invite others to be a part of the process of discovering new meaning for their lives in our community.  For the next six months, I challenge you to invite at least one person a month to come to worship with you.


Another challenge I am issuing is a financial one.  For a while, our congregation has been faced with a declining budget.  While we have some money in reserves for a rainy day, we do not want to get into the habit of relying on those reserves to fund our ongoing ministry.  So, if you are not currently tithing (10% of your income, gross or net) but have felt led to but are scared, I am offering you a money back guarantee.  You will need to let me know and we will sign a contract.  If at the end of six months (January to June) and don’t feel like the stretch to a tithe has made a difference in your life or the church’s, I will refund the money you have given to Central Christian Church in 2024. 

Before you think I have completely lost my mind, here’s why I’m doing this:  I believe our heart goes where our money goes.  If more of your money goes to the church, your heart will naturally be drawn to invest more of yourself too.  With a financial and emotional investment, we will see a difference in the life of the church.  If you accept this challenge and don’t see a positive difference, your money will be returned.  If you do see a positive difference, you have been a catalyst for new life and ministry.

Finally, but not lastly, prayer is a primary activity as Christians.  Prayer undergirds every aspect of our life together.  We need to join together for the specific purpose of praying.  So, in addition to praying at 2:42 every day, I invite you to join me in the Parlor every Tuesday and Thursday at Noon.  There is no agenda – just prayer.  We will talk about what is on our hearts and then share that with God.  I know that as we share our hearts with God, we will be more open to God’s leading.

In 2024, something big is in the works for Central Christian Church, Murfreesboro.  We have been working hard to lay a strong foundation on which to build.  Now, as we dedicate ourselves to prayer, to teaching, to fellowship, and breaking bread (an image of justice where everyone is welcome at Christ’s Table), we will see the ways God works in our midst.

I’ll see you Sunday.


December 2023 Caller Article

Advent begins Sunday, December 3.  Advent is a season filled with wonder and anticipation! Advent includes four Sundays of preparation and expectation leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The word "Advent" itself means "coming" or "arrival," signifying the arrival of something greatly anticipated and longed for.

In the Church, during Advent, there's a sense of waiting and hopeful anticipation, not just for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, but also for the promise of hope, peace, joy, and love that the arrival of the Christ Child brings. During worship, we mark this season with lighting Advent candles, talking about the meaning of each Chrismon hanging on our tree in the Sanctuary, and singing the songs of meaning for this season.  There is a serene beauty in the traditions, music, and decorations associated with Advent – a time that encourages reflection, spiritual growth, and mindfulness amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

This year, during Advent, the guiding word for me is wonder.  Wonder sparks and ignites our imagination—wonder is the gateway to exploring new ideas, possibilities, and perspectives. When we experience wonder, whether through marveling at something beautiful, encountering something unfamiliar, or being inspired by the unknown, it triggers our imagination to soar.

Children model wonder for us each Christmas season.  Stories, both religious and secular, pique curiosity to encourage us to ask questions, seek answers, and explore the unknown. This curiosity fuels our imagination, encouraging us to create scenarios that give us language to expand upon what we've experienced.  Wonder fertilizes creative thinking. When we are filled with wonder, our minds start connecting dots that might seem unrelated, leading to innovative ideas and imaginative solutions. Wonder inspires artistic expression, storytelling, and problem-solving in unique ways.

Wonder encourages an open-minded approach to the world, allowing us to entertain possibilities beyond our current knowledge or beliefs and fostering a mindset that's receptive to new ideas and alternative perspectives.  Wonder evokes emotions deeply rooted in awe, joy, and amazement. These emotions can drive us to explore the world with greater depth, influencing our imagination to conjure scenarios and stories that capture the essence of what we find wondrous.  Experiencing wonder expands our mental horizons,  broadening our understanding of what's possible, pushing the boundaries of our imagination to encompass things beyond our immediate reality.


This month, I will be spending time exploring the ways I can claim the wonder of Advent and and Christmas as to how wonder pushes me to explore beyond current reality.  I will spend a little more time hearing the stories, watching the movies, and listening to the music that brings awe and wonder to my life this Advent.  While I may find different answers or expressions of wonder than I did as a child, I will (we will), nonetheless, approach this season with a more zealous sense of wonder than years past.  

Maybe, just maybe, a reconnection with wonder will move me (and us) out of the fear and anxiety that permeates the rest of our days.  May we affirm in the wonder of this Advent that there is hope, we will make peace, we will find more joy, and love one another that endures beyond when the calendar (or society) says we can go back to the way we were.

I’ll see you Sunday.


November 2023 Caller Article

The Book of Exodus doesn’t just tell the story about the liberation of the Israelite slaves from Egyptian captivity and their journey through the wilderness toward the Promised Land.  Yes, Exodus bears witness to the meaning of the exodus and revelation experience at Mount Sinai and lays the foundation for Israel’s religious traditions.

The Book of Exodus is the story of us -- of our struggles as individuals and as a community, of our journey toward living wholly as a people in relationship with God, of our task to live,     according to the promises God makes with us and we make with one another.  When we look deeper into the story of Exodus, we find ourselves caught in the tangles of living as people once totally dependent on the whims and demands of others to a people fully free to make   decisions on our own and to live with the blessings and consequences of those decisions.  

Exodus has great themes that are relevant today -- themes like liberation (freeing ourselves from the bondage of our own thoughts, actions, and perspectives, as well as others’), law (establishing the rules that we all live by), covenant (living together in relationships that honor one another), and worship (setting the rituals of our worship of God and what they mean).

Many times we see the people wandering in the wilderness as lost, without direction and   without life.  Instead, what happens in the wilderness is an ordering of life together, setting up rules to live by, gaining an identity as God’s people, and maturing into a people God created them to be, not the people bound in slavery and oppression.

As we grow as people of faith, as a community of faith, we understand God’s presence and  activity in our life.  We see that we are growing, that we are preparing to live freely and   wholly as God’s people, and that, while we make mistakes and other poor choices, God’s   presence, forgiveness, and grace abound.  For the people of Israel, the wilderness was a place of tremendous growth and change.  It may appear as they were just biding time between one place to the next, but amazing things happened to them


Two years ago when I came to Central Christian Church as your Interim Minister, many of you thought I would be holding your hand as you walked through the transition from one  Minister to the next.  Many assumed that I was simply a placeholder for this temporary time.  Yet, this interim time is proving to be a time of significant reordering and growth.  Like the Israelites in the wilderness, Central Christian is slowly discovering the ways in which the future is available.  Rooted in the past and respectful of our predecessors, a new day is     dawning for this congregation.  New opportunities arise each day to be in ministry with our surrounding community and beyond.

Over the last year, we have been living into a new set of by-laws and governing principles.  There have been hiccups and obstacles.  There have been unforeseen questions that require better answers.  There are different conversations that we need to have as we figure out how to live into these new parameters for our community’s life.

We are also seeking to ask different questions of each other in how we act toward one another.  The covenants of past conduct may not be sufficient for future life together.  Yet, under it all, at our foundation and core, we worship together and return to the Table of grace and reconciliation.  Exodus reveals the depths of who we are and how we live in relationship with one another and with God.  May we find a path together through the wilderness that leads to a new land of promise.

I’ll see you Sunday.


October 2023 Caller Article

Beginning in October, we are starting a Stewardship emphasis to help draft an adequate budget for ministry in 2024.  I know to many people “Stewardship” is a four-letter word that is not to be uttered in their presence.  People are generally uncomfortable talking about stewardship  because the focus is often only about money.  Historically, we haven’t had an adequate    working definition of stewardship, nor a clear, consistent way of putting stewardship into     action.


In truth, stewardship is an important tool we need for ministry.  According to the Center for Faith and Giving, “Christian Stewardship is grateful and responsible use of God’s gifts in light of God’s purpose as revealed in Jesus Christ.  Christian stewards, empowered by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves to conscious, purposeful decisions.”  Stewardship is not just about money.  Faithful Christian Stewardship is about all of God’s gifts being used for the purpose of ministry, including time and talent.


Grateful expression of Christian stewardship embodies the recognition that all gifts, whether material or spiritual, are blessings from God.  Stewardship reflects our heartfelt acknowledgment of God’s grace and generosity manifest in our lives.  We are given the responsibility to use the gifts wisely, with compassion and care, to help others in dedication to God’s            glory.  Gratitude becomes the driving force, motivating others to also share their blessings, to nurture community, and to contribute to the well-being of all.


Responsible Christian stewardship is rooted in the conscientious understanding that our       resources, talents, and time are entrusted to us by God.  Our commitment to use these gifts thoughtfully, ethically, and sustainably, reflects that we are stewards, not owners, of all that we possess.  Careful management and accountability, ensuring that our actions align with God’s values of love, justice, and compassion, moves us toward responsibly tending to the needs of our world and its inhabitants.   Thus, we fulfill our duty to care for God’s creation, to foster a sense of interconnectedness, and to participate in the building of God’s reign on earth.


The story in Matthew 14 of Jesus feeding the 5,000 beautifully illustrates the principles of grateful and responsible Christian stewardship.  When the disciples initially realized the     meager resources they had and the immense task they faced, they focused on the scarcity and their limitations, echoing our tendency to focus on what we lack.  However, Jesus taught them a transformative lesson in stewardship.  By taking what was available, blessing it, and sharing it, Jesus demonstrated the power of approaching our situation with an attitude of abundance rather than deficiency.  

Our faith calls us to recognize and be grateful for the gifts and resources we have, no matter how modest they seem.  By asking God’s blessing on what we possess and sharing it with others, we become responsible stewards of what we have, multiplying the impact we have on our community and beyond.  Further, we embrace the profound truth that through faith and stewardship, there is always enough to meet the needs of many.


Our collective endeavor to do ministry as Central Christian Church in 2024 and beyond begins today with taking a look at the gifts God has given you – in time, talent, and treasure.  As you name those gifts and how much of each gift you have, ask God to bless them, and decide how much you are able to share to build God’s reign on earth.  That’s how our faith works – God takes what you have, blesses it, and invites you to share with others.  In God, there is always enough for everyone.


I’ll see you Sunday. 


August 2023 Caller Article

I am writing this article a couple of days ahead of the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.  We will be gathering in Louisville, Kentucky around the theme:  “The Kindom of God:  Within Us, Among Us.”  So, by the time you read this, the Assembly will have happened.  Here is what I think will have happened: Disciples have been gathering for generations and will gather for generations to come.  However, they will likely not gather in the same way we have gathered for the last few decades.  COVID-19 changed that.  We now can gather more often online – less expensively than we can gather in person.  So, coming out of this Assembly will likely be a different vision for how/when we gather.  There will be plenty of discussion about the future with fear, anxiety, and maybe even confidence about what is yet to come will bring a new vitality to our gatherings.

What won’t change is our passion for gathering around the Table.  Since the days of Campbell and Stone, an open Table  has been important.  It’s important because we remember God’s activity in our lives and the whole world bringing limitless grace and wholeness to a broken world.  We remember and we celebrate our faith that God’s faithfulness will remain more powerful than the fear and anxiety that occupies our consciousness.

Sometimes, we let the fear and anxiety of the future distract our perception on what is real and what is fear.  In an article in the current issue of Christian Century magazine, author Martha Tatarnic talks about the concept of “ultrarealism.”  The concept of “ultrarealism” comes from long-distance running (uh, oh, here goes the pastor on his running kick again…) and what goes on in the runner’s mind.  Tartanic says, “Runners can easily undo their own efforts by worrying about what is coming next or wishing that things were different. Ultrarealism instead sees, accepts, and embraces what actually is. I might get freaked-out about my uneven breathing. I might feel despair about the spitting rain and how slowly the first mile seems to have gone when I still have 17 to go. But while these things about breathing and rain and mileage might be true, I can choose to note that, right here in this present moment, my leg muscles feel strong, the rain is refreshing, and I have the great privilege of being able to run. I can feel the discomfort but also recognize that not only am I not dying, not only am I safe and okay, but I am running and it feels good.”


Tatarnic goes on to apply ultrarealism to the church as we focus on the decades-long decline of the church, the societal change we lament, and the obsessive search for the one program that will fill our pews and coffers once again.  Tartanic continues,  that it is easy “to feel as if we are trapped in the hypothetical—never closer to attaining the picture of institutional healththat has been set for us by nostalgia or programmatic promise. It’s not just that these dynamics leave those of us in leadership wondering if there’s an exit hatch; it’s also that there is very

little that is compelling or life-giving about a church that is so obviously desperate and dissatisfied.” 


I wonder if a dose of ultrarealism about Central Christian might help us as we live in these days.  Our pews on Sunday mornings aren’t as full as they used to be.  There are no families with young children clamoring to take advantage of any programs we might offer.  It costs a lot of money to keep the buildings and property maintained, cleaned and cooled for use each week and the dollars don’t stretch as far as they used to.  But that is not the type of ultrarealism I want us to focus on.  Instead, I wonder if we focused on a church identity that believes the church to be the real, complicated, messy people who have found themselves gathered together and who have been met by the surprising power of God’s love.

Like the runner who finds herself breathing inconsistently in the drizzling rain who is  lamenting a slow first mile with 17 to go, the church  might realize that that is not what iimportant.  Instead, we, the church, feel good, there is still life in our steps, it feels good to gather on Sunday mornings, there are smiles and hugs every week, prayers are answered, the Bible is read and understood, songs of praise sung, and there is enough inspiration to get through another week.  When we focus on the idea that we still like getting together on Sundays, we need the support of one another, and life is better when we are together, we become a church, a collection of people (not an institution) that makes a positive difference in our community.

Yes, the General Assembly won’t be like years past and will likely be different in the years to come.  Yet, it will feel good to gather for worship, education, service, and fellowship in Louisville this week.  We will gather around tables of many shapes and sizes and we will gather around Christ’s Table to re-member, to receive grace, and to keep working for a better world.

Yes, Central Christian, Murfreesboro isn’t what it used to be and uncertain about what we might look like in the future.  But, we will gather to worship, study, serve, and fellowship with one another.  We, too, will gather around tables of various shapes and sizes in our life

together.  We will continue to gather around Christ’s Table to re-member, to receive grace, and to keep working for a better world.  When we focus on that reality, we aren’t in decline.  We are a vibrant force that makes a difference today and every day that life is ours.

I’ll see you Sunday, August 6.


July 2023 Caller Article

I posted the following on my personal Facebook page on Sunday, June 18, the 27th anniversary of my ordination into Christian ministry.  It is a reflection on my years in ministry.  Since I am not friends with all of you on Facebook, I have decided to share this with you all in this way:


Today, Sunday, June 18 marks the anniversary of my ordination into Christian ministry in 1995.  Over the past 27 years in ministry I have had many profound moments like:

  • holding a newborn baby in the hospital and witnessing their growth into adulthood 

  • officiating the weddings of two generations of the same family

  • presiding at celebrations of life for saints of the church, both those I knew only through the eyes of grieving family members and those I knew for decades

  • burying people way too soon, like a 10-year-old who battled cancer and a 36-year-old who struggled with addiction

  • walking the final months with a Korean War and Vietnam veteran who had been exposed to Agent Orange

  • and, presiding at the funerals of members of my own family


I have been honored to be a part of family celebrations at weddings in various locations, including the Hotel del Coronado beach, a Revolutionary War-era house in Charleston, SC, and community parks.  I have had the joy of officiating weddings in 7 different states and members of my own family.


Ministry has taken me to serve congregations in Indiana, California, Tennessee, Kentucky, and during my time as a student in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Indiana.  I have led mission trips and service projects.  I have taken dozens of young people to amusement parks and water parks – I only lost one kid for a short time (it wasn’t my fault as it was my first day on the job at that church).  I have had many sleepless nights at camps, retreats, lock ins, and lock outs.


Memorable events and highlights abound, including taking a group of 4th & 5th graders to a Habitat for Humanity work site.  High school students served as my counselors.  The Habitat staff person was skeptical about letting the kids do anything, but in less than 2 hours, the back half of that house was demolished to the studs, cleaned and ready for the remodeling crew to do their work.  A few weeks later, that same group of students convinced a nature center staff member to put a snake around my neck and shoulders.


Ministry is filled with moments of sacred and profane, the profound and the mundane.  Ministers in congregations are treated with respect and, moments later, utter disrespect.  I have been called “Reverend” and irreverent.  I have been invited to lead in deep, life-changing moments and been cut deep and my life changed.  


Many people look at ministers and think, “I can do your job” and they might be right.  But ministry is not for everyone.  Congregational leadership is an exercise in exerting power in situations where you are powerless, in finding middle ground within a sea of competing ideologies, and leading people in a Christ-like manner who are more interested in following their personal Caesar.


It’s probably understating, but I believe the world in which we live today is more divided than at any time in recent history.  I’m sure that with the rise in claiming one’s individual rights, church folks seem to be more willing to sing Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” than “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” in the face of disagreement and more apt to buy a defiant “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker than one that affirms that we are, “Better Together.”  Inside and outside the Church, we would rather define ourselves by being the opposite of what we oppose instead of working to find common ground on which to build community, deeper relationships.  We live in an “either/or” mindset, instead of finding a faithful “both/and.”  It makes the job of a congregational minister more difficult, especially since the congregation is called to be a faithful model of what it means to live in community.  There are enough challenges and expectations heaped on congregational ministers without this current reality.


This morning, the Gospel Lectionary text in Matthew tells about how Jesus names the disciples and sends them out to do ministry in his name – preaching, teaching, and healing.  Jesus isn’t sending disciples to build anything, but to imitate what Jesus does.  I wonder if we have moved from “imitate Jesus” to “do it my way” because we have learned how to control people to maintain the systems, organizations, and structures that reflect our power more than they reflect God’s power.  At some point on our journey, we forgot how to preach, teach, and heal because the people paying our salaries were telling us to make them look and feel better about themselves.  


That “healing” part of our instructions is more about liberating others from the systems and structures that keep them locked away from full participation and full expression of love, grace, and humanness we all long for.  Giving sight to the blind, having the lame get up and walk, or curing disease is scary business to those who have been able to dismiss the blind, lame, and sick as “less than” to make themselves feel better.  Giving charity to those “less than” keeps the comfortable comforted and the afflicted in their place.  If the world were different, the powerful wouldn’t be so powerful.  


To continually articulate that vision and work toward that reality as people who seek to imitate Jesus makes people uncomfortable.  As humans, we naturally want to have our needs taken care of and need to fulfill our wants on occasion.  But, to some, that makes us unreliable and unfaithful – less than good enough to lead, less than good enough to set an example in how we might imitate Jesus.  Somehow, the grace we seek to embody doesn’t get extended to us.  We, ministers then, become the reason the Church is failing and has a crisis of leadership.


There is a lot of work to do.  The tasks are many and difficult – with very little support.  The work is great and the workers are few.  The tasks are human; the journey is sacred.  The expectations are absurd. In ministry, we reflect and embody the ministry of Jesus and live the life, death, and resurrection everyday.  The hope of another experience of resurrection fuels the fire to keep going.


Today, I reflect on 27 years of ordained ministry (another 7 as a student in ministry).  Maybe I have another 27 years to do this work, probably not.  I am grateful for this journey and the people who have blessed me along the way.  I am appreciative of the lessons learned and those yet to be learned.  I know, without a doubt, that the only way to do the work of ministry I pledged to do in my ordination vows is “With God’s help.”


I’ll see you Sunday.


To continually articulate that vision and work toward that reality as people who seek to imitate Jesus makes people uncomfortable.  As humans, we naturally want to have our needs taken care of and need to fulfill our wants on occasion.  But, to some, that makes us unreliable and unfaithful – less than good enough to lead, less than good enough to set an example in how we might imitate Jesus.  Somehow, the grace we seek to embody doesn’t get extended to us.  We, ministers then, become the reason the Church is failing and has a crisis of leadership.

June 2023 Caller Article

Like any finished or presented project, there are always items left on the cutting room floor – to borrow a term from the film industry.  Sermons are no different.  There are always stories, biblical facts or insights, and paths of thought not shared.  Here’s a story that I didn’t share with you on Sunday, but I will now:


Pentecost Sunday marks a poignant aspect of church life – the giving of the Holy Spirit to the people who follow Christ.  I can think of many years that Pentecost was ignored (or at least unremarkable from any other Sunday) in the church I attended.  Yet, there was one congregation I served that really got into the spirit (pardon the pun) of Pentecost during worship.  In the weeks prior to Pentecost, a subset of the Worship Committee recruited a few individuals who spoke a different language to stand up in their pew and pray the Lord’s Prayer in that language.  At the appointed time in the service, 10-20 people stood up and prayed together the Lord’s Prayer in different languages.


The first time I experienced this, I was taken aback.  Yet, each time I was moved, as it was significant.  The sounds of different languages coupled with a familiar prayer helped me imagine what that day might have been like – each one understanding in their own way what was being shared.  The point of unity isn’t same-ness.  The essence of the unity of the Church is that the Spirit has given each of us gifts that we are to use as part of a whole community and your gifts and contributions are an integral part of what makes the Body of Christ whole.


As we go through the season after Pentecost – most commonly referred to as “Ordinary Time” – I don’t want to lose sight or sound of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of this congregation, individually and collectively.  One of the joys of being a pastor is that I am invited into many significant moments in the lives of individuals and families in the congregation.  Weddings, funerals, births, illnesses, transitions, and other meaningful moments are powerful parts of who we are and who we become.

This summer will be filled with opportunities to feel the spirit alive and at work in your lives.  I pray that you are open to the ways in which the Spirit is moving, bringing new life to your individual lives, this congregation, the whole community, our nation, and our world.

I’ll see you Sunday.


May 2023 Caller Article

I have told you stories about my Uncle Ron before in my sermons.  He was a hard working, hard living, fun loving farmer/rancher/cowboy from northwest Oklahoma.  Uncle Ron had a vocabulary that matched his larger than life personality, had a few bad habits that made no attempt to correct in his life, and certainly enjoyed more than his share of an amber fermented liquid that was made from wheat, malt, barely, rye, hops, yeast, and water.  He was a sporadic church goer – more frequent than Christmas and Easter, but less frequent than every other Sunday.  Uncle Ron would not be considered a “model Christian,” but if someone had a need, he was always quick to meet that need.  With a rough exterior, people may have been intimidated by his demeanor, but to get to know him, Ron was as soft-hearted as they come.


When I preached the sermon for his funeral, two scripture passages came to mind:  Ecclesiastes 3 – “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” and Romans 8 – “(nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Just how he lived his life, the sermon at Uncle Ron’s funeral reflected moments of great laughter and joy and poignant pain.  The God who loved Ron, whose image Ron reflected, is the same God who loves us and whose image we reflect.  


Life is filled with circumstances we create and circumstances that are beyond our control.  Yet, we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith as a calling in a way that makes a positive difference in the lives of others.  Often, this comes with personal sacrifices and/or consequences.   I was recently reminded that in living out a calling, there is a difference between good advice and good news.  There is a paradox that people will give you good advice that will make your life better in some fashion.  Yet, proclaiming and living the Good News of faith in Jesus, will often come at a personal cost.


In his book, The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World, author Kent M. Keith says:  

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

People really need help but may not thank you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.


I have known a lot of people in my life who were similar to my Uncle Ron – an exterior that doesn’t match the interior. Yet, through Ecclesiastes we are reminded that life is filled with varied seasons.  Romans further reminds us that through our faith, we are never separated from God’s love.  


We live in a world that challenges us to live faithfully.  Being faithful to a calling to share Good News sometimes causes us to not follow someone else’s good advice. As a faith community, may we help one another to discern the difference.


I’ll see you Sunday.


April 2023 Caller Article

As I write this article, Nashville, Middle Tennessee, and the whole nation are continuing to be bombarded with new information, details, and stories about the school shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, a small Pre-K through 6th Grade Christian school located in Covenant Presbyterian Church.  It’s been 48 hours since it happened and it is all everyone is talking about, what local TV stations are broadcasting, and friends from all over the country are texting me about this week.

We are still trying to figure out how we feel.  We are shocked.  We are devastated.  We are hurt.  We are sad.  These feelings will not go away any time soon.  Yet, we are still called to live in these days – to find life in the midst of death, to seek light in the midst of darkness, to find peace in the midst of upheaval.  It is so close to home that we have to deal with these feelings.  We can no longer pretend gun violence in schools is someone else’s problem.

In all of the feelings we are experiencing right now, we are not surprised.  In 2023, the United States is averaging one school shooting a week.  Since 2020, gun violence has overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of death for children under 18 years of age.  There is no remedy to the problem of gun violence in America in the foreseeable future.  We have lost the privilege of outrage about gun violence affecting our children for the privilege of gun ownership rights.  This is our reality and we have created it.

Some of you may be upset with me for mentioning the need to curb gun violence while we are still in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.  It doesn’t seem pastoral to take advantage of our emotions in these moments.  Honestly, it is not pastoral to keep putting our heads in the sand to not even try to have a conversation about reducing gun violence in our country.  Our lawmakers in Nashville and Washington DC don’t have any interest in doing anything about it.  So, it is up to us to show our leaders a better way to lead.

If you are interested in being part of a solution – at least a part of a conversation that might lead toward a solution – I would like your help in setting a table to find a place to start.  Central Christian Church serves as a microcosm of the disparate views about guns as our whole country has.  We are not of one mind on this issue.  Yet, we can come together to explore a place to start having important conversations about safety for our children and ourselves as we seek to live through these times.  This week is a dark Friday.  Yet, we are hopeful – our faith leads to affirm – that a bright Sunday morning will come soon.

I’ll see you Sunday.

March 2023 Caller Article

A few years ago as a Lenten exercise, I read Adam Hamilton’s book The Way:  Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus and engaged a small group for discussion.  It was a good book and conversation that helped to illuminate parts of scripture that may seem ordinary or bland and brought out a deeper understanding of the texts.  In reading and talking with others we

explored the texts behind the text to see what else comes to light from stories that are familiar to many of us who have been in the church a while and have studied the Bible before.  

About the same time, I read an article by a friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. Mark Price.  In the article, he relayed a quote by Tom Ehrich that made a connection between

stopping by the sampler tables at Costco and the life of faith.  Ehrich writes:

“It is possible to approach faith as if it were a sampler. An hour of worship, a Lenten study group, a morning’s Habitat duty, an evening committee. Each sample has substance, each is offered as an invitation to go cheaper, but in the end, a circuit of sampling stations leaves one unfulfilled. . . . Seeking more proves to be a vexing quest, not because real food is difficult to find, but because sampling is so tempting—a lark, no cost—and staying longer so disturbing.”

Lent is a season in the church when we dedicate ourselves to prayer and study of scripture while walking the journey with Jesus to the cross and the empty tomb.  Our worship is a little different as we prepare for Easter.  We give just a little more attention to spiritual

practices.  I’m sure some of us will stay in one or more of these practices for much longer as opportunities are offered. But what exactly did Tom Ehrich mean when he suggested that “staying longer” is disturbing? He meant this:

“Serious mission work can render one unfit to resume normal life. Sustained study of scripture can confuse one’s religion. Anything that renews faith changes life. A sharing group will

illuminate hidden corners. Intense prayer calls everything into question.”

Faith as sampling is very tempting precisely because there is minimal risk involved. Faith as practice might well change us into, well, God’s people on a mission in our world. That’s risky business.  As we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, let us be willing to be changed, challenged, and fulfilled on this journey -- now, and forever.

I’ll see you Sunday.

February 2023 Caller Article

Every day, authenticity takes a beating.  Deception rules our political lives.  Advertisers sell us something that does not do what they say it does.  Doctored Internet videos make us think something is real.  We see snapshots but create our own context for what we see.  Rules are constantly broken because the rule doesn’t apply universally.  People cheat.  People lie.  People scream loudly to get their way.  Aggressive people bulldoze less aggressive people.  How many times can I let my car’s warranty expire?


I know that there have been people who have cheated, who have lied, who have bullied, and who have scammed before.  I know that there are folks who have built their whole lives on lies.  Having a lack of authenticity about who you are, how you relate to others, and what you do will continue in our wider culture.  We just need to have our eyes tuned to what is real, what is authentic.


Each of us has things that we try to hide from others -- including our own selves.  Each of us has moments in our lives that we would like to keep quiet and hidden from others -- because if they knew the truth about us, there would be repercussions.  Maybe they would not like us anymore or the relationship would end.  Maybe we would have internal shame and project it onto every other person in close relationship.  Whatever the reason, we keep things hidden to keep others close, fearing that “if you really knew me you would leave.”


As people of faith, we can start changing that perception in our relationship with God.  There is no other relationship that is as authentic as our relationship with God.  God knows us deeply and intimately.  God knows our strengths, our weaknesses, our thoughts, and our intentions.  There is no hiding from God.  There is no hiding our authentic, true selves from God.  Psalm 139 is a beautiful testament to God’s intimate knowledge of us and God’s continued love for us.


You and I may not be able to come clean with everyone we meet, but we can come clean with God, trusting that God already knows and loves us and that God will not end our relationship.  In fact, God will pull you closer and be gracious.  Spend some time this week opening up to God about what is real, what is true, and what is most at the core of your anxiety, fear, and shame.  If you are honest with God, you will, in turn, begin to be honest with yourself.  You might even feel compelled to be that honest with your spouse or closest friend.


Authenticity will continue to be on the endangered species list for our wider culture -- it’s become too easy not to be authentic.  Yet, we can stop the spin cycle in our own minds and be honest with God.  It might open our eyes to what continues to be real and authentic in our relationships with others and leave us less susceptible to being a victim of a hoax, a scam, or a lifetime of lies.  Psalm 139 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”


I’ll see you Sunday.


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